Imation Nexsan takes hybrid unified model to enterprise

Imation improves its flash caching for the Nexsan NST6000 as it attempts to make its unified storage system better suited for mission-critical apps.

Imation's Nexsan storage rolled out a pumped up hybrid unified storage system this week that uses fault-tolerant DRAM for write caching and solid-state drives for read performance.

The NST6000 is the second Nexsan product launched since Imation acquired Nexsan for $120 million in January. Imation upgraded Nexsan's Assureon archiving software in June.

The NST6000 supports Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSI for block storage, and NFS, CIFS, SMB and FTP for file storage. The NST6000 uses a FASTier caching engine to optimize flash performance and life expectancy.

Like the NST5000, which launched in March 2012, the NST6000 uses Imation Nexsan E-Series arrays for back-end storage. The NST6000 has more memory, caching and flash capacity than the NST5000, which also lacks FC support.

Imation Nexsan Marketing Director Bill Schilling said Imation will continue to sell the NST5000 for midrange customers, and will position the NST6000 for mission-critical applications such as databases that need high performance.

The first member of the new platform is the NST6350, a 6U box with two active-active controllers and 12 CPU cores per controller. It includes 96 GB (standard) or 192 GB (premium) of DRAM per controller, 64 GB of mirrored write cache capacity, 4.4 TB (standard) or 9.2 TB (premium) read cache capacity, and up to 48 drives and 19.2 TB of solid-state drive capacity. The system uses up to 48 read caching devices with either 200 GB or 400 GB multi-level cell or 100 GB or 200 GB single-level flash drives.

Nexsan doesn't have automated tiering for moving on and off flash storage. Schilling said the vendor suggests customers move data to an archive tier with Assureon software to free up expensive storage tiers for primary data. Imation plans to integrate Assureon's archiving with the NST platform, but has not done so yet.

"We think we have [an] application-friendly hybrid approach to flash," Schilling said. "We're not moving data on and off disk. By using Assureon, we can help optimize mission-critical storage by moving infrequently accessed data to the archive."

The estimated street price begins at $70,000 for the NST6350 controller and about $700,000 for the controller with 3 E-Series arrays and six expansion units with up to 2.16 PB. Schilling said an NST6350 can be bought with all flash. It scales to 5 PB with all SATA drives, 765 TB with all-SAS drives and 19.2 TB if loaded with only flash.

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